After many months of good intentions we finally got around to organising a short stint of volunteering through an organisation called Proyecto Mosaico, based in Granada, Nicaragua. With one of their partner projects based at an ecological research station by a lake in the middle of an ancient volcanic we just couldn't put it off any longer.
Upon arriving at Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo we found that our volunteering place, 'Estacion Biologica' also doubles as a Spanish language school, which was fantastic as it meant much more people to socialise with by night and practice our own Spanish with. While we were there, there were two other volunteers - Kelsey and Kimberley from Oregan in the US. With no research work being undertaken at the site during our period of stay the main task at hand was reforestation work within the catchment of the Laguna. This meant spending several mornings high up the crater tending to previously planted seedlings (clearing leaf litter from their stems to prevent damage from one of the many small fires that rolls through the bushland on any given day), and watering them. As it was the dry season, and therefore the time when many
of the native trees produce and drop their seeds, a major part of our work was the collection and preparation of seeds for later planting at the start of the wet season.
Now having not done any work for what, 10 months now, we went all out. The agreement is that each volunteer works 4 hours a day, but we rolled up our sleeves and decided to 7 and 8 hour days, to make up for the fact that we were only spending a week in the project. And so we wandered about collecting seeds, constantly pestering the all-knowledgable Pablo as to which plant is this, and do we want seeds for this one (almost invariably the answers were 'yes' and 'lots of them'). Next was countless hours pulling apart seed pods of all different sizes, giving them a whole lot of sun and finally creating a few seedling bags and planting some of the seeds to get them on their way. All this interspersed with the occassional stroll down to the beautiful freshwater lake for a swim. Yep, this was an office in paradise and not at all hard to work in!
The other task we undertook
was to create a guidebook of all the different plants and seeds that we had become familiar with so that subsequent volunteers would have something to go by, and also to save Pablo from having to answer all our questions over and over again! For your information the guide book had more than 'Yes' and 'Lots of them'.
We were lucky enough to undertake a few excursions during our week at the centre. One afternoon saw us up at the crater rim enjoying the magical view from 'Catarina' (see the panorama) and also to a pottery making street where we were given a demonstration of an expert using the potters wheel, followed by far more amusing demonstrations to each other.
Another fine evening a group of us headed out to Volcan Masaya, a massive, very active volcano. Wafts of sulphur aside, this was an amazing experience, incredibly scenic as the sun set and the volcano rumbled below us. We also donned some hard hats and walked deep into a nearby cave, through swarms of bats, and finally into a spooky chamber, where elders from the precolonial villages near the volcano decided upon which unlucky soul should be the
sacrifice to the gods of the volcano. The sacrifices were also carried out here, and later the body was dumped into the fiery volcano!
And with that we came to the end of our week of volunteering. We left feeling all warm on the inside and good about ourselves, but more importantly confident that the work we had undertaken would be well complimented by the efforts of future volunteers.
And after this week of hot, hard work we needed a holiday. So in a bus and a taxi and another bus, and another bus, and a boat....AND WE'RE OFF TO THE CARIBBEAN!!!
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